Photographs are often disappointing when compared to the memory of what we saw in the moment.The colours are faded and the perspectives flattened. The dog turned, the wind blew the flower, the bee flew away, or the whole thing is out of focus. That is my common experience.
Today I finally downloaded the last couple of weeks of photos from my camera to the computer. I gasped when this appeared on the screen. Did I take that? Was I really there? How could I have not lain right down in the swamp and wept at such beauty? I remember being drawn towards the purple of the last of the wild iris. I remember being conscious of the water seeping in and out through the hole in my boot; aware of the dog blissfully rolling in bear poop nearby; and of course swatting automatically at mosquitoes. I do not recall being in awe of the light caressing the veins of the iris, or contemplating the suggestion of decay in the drooping curve of the petals, or getting lost in the beautiful line of purple against the deep deep green. At best, I thought “oh, pretty” before I clicked and moved on.
Capturing images on the camera does help me to slow down as I move through the landscape. I see small things, relish textures, look for interesting lines and shapes. This picture of the iris is a joy, but it is also a reminder to not let the camera come between me and the things I am trying to “see”. It seems paradoxical that I would spend more time looking at a picture of a thing, than at the thing itself.
I will have to investigate the idea of photography as a contemplative exercise, and practice seeing more deeply when I am out with the camera. This iris, this moment, has been a gift, and an inspiration.